For Paralympian Joel Dembe, symbols matter, which is why he and others say they’re pushing for the use of a new accessibility symbol in Canada.
Many are calling for the current International Symbol of Access, a blue-and-white logo created over 40 years ago that features a person sitting back in a wheelchair, to be replaced with the Dynamic Symbol of Access. The newer design shows a person in a wheelchair leaning forward with an arm raised back.
“When I look at that old symbol, I see someone that’s dependent on others for movement. I see someone that’s very passive, that’s not in control, that’s not independent,” Dembe said.
“The more I thought about it, the more I’m like, ‘That’s not representative of me or many other friends I have that have disabilities as well.”
He said the Dynamic Symbol of Access is “more representative of disability today” and using the new symbol will hopefully promote inclusion.
“It makes sense. Look at me. How do you see me move? I’m leaning forward, I’m pushing forward.”
“This new [symbol] shows that someone with a disability can not only propel themselves, but live independently and do things their own way.”
Dembe, along with The Forward Movement initiative, want to see laws changed to require the Dynamic Symbol of Access to be used to mark parking spaces and incorporated into building codes.
Christine Misener, an optometrist and practice owner with the Ancaster Eye Clinic, said the business was in the process of repainting its parking lot. She said adopting the new symbol was an opportunity.
“If it’s something that feels a little more representative of the population, we’re on board to adopt that,” she said, adding there’s more of an emphasis on the person and less on the wheelchair.
When asked about changing the symbol in Ontario, a provincial Ministry of Government and Consumer Services spokesperson said since the old symbol is used across the world, it would be difficult to change what’s used now.
“Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. We get a lot of tourists here. You don’t want to cause confusion among Ontario residents or among the many travellers here that recognize a standard, universal symbol,” Anne-Marie Flanagan told Global News.